Sonoma County, California Extends and Retroactively Expands Emergency Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

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On June 8, 2021, the Sonoma County, California Board of Supervisors enacted an urgency ordinance that extends and amends – in part retroactively to January 1, 2021 – its emergency paid sick leave (EPSL) ordinance.

New “End” Date: The ordinance was set to expire on July 1, 2021. Now, however, it will remain in effect through September 30, 2021 (expiring October 1), unless the county further extends the ordinance’s duration.

New Bank of Leave: This is the third amendment to the ordinance in 2021. First, on January 26, the county revived the then-expired 2020 version of the ordinance, prospectively, but did not require employers to provide a new bank of EPSL hours. Shortly after, on February 9, the county expanded coverage under the ordinance – again, prospectively – from employers with 500 or more U.S. employees to all employers in the county’s unincorporated area such that these newly-covered employers had to provide a new 2021 leave bank. During the most recent round of amendments, the county requires employers to provide 80 hours of 2021 EPSL to employees whose normal work schedule is 40 or more hours per week, and a proportionate amount for other employees based on the average number of hours they work, that employees can use from January 1 through September 30, 2021. But, employers can offset the amount of Sonoma County 2021 EPSL by the amount of similar paid leave they must provide under California’s 2021 supplemental paid sick law or Cal/OSHA exclusion pay requirements, or that they voluntarily provide (and receive federal tax credits for) under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).1

New Covered Uses: The amended ordinance allows employees to use EPSL if they have an appointment to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or are ill after receiving the vaccine and cannot work or telework.

Revised Generous Policy Exception: If, as of June 8, 2021, an employee has at least 80 hours of accrued paid sick leave benefits or 160 hours of a combination of paid sick leave, vacation, and paid time off, this satisfies the employer’s 2021 Sonoma County EPSL obligations. If by this date an employee has fewer than 80 / 160 hours, employers must provide EPSL to the extent of the deficiency but may credit COVID-19 paid sick leave hours furnished to an employee under California’s 2021 supplemental paid sick law, Cal/OSHA exclusion pay requirements, or the voluntarily provided paid leave under the conditions outlined in ARPA for FFCRA leave.

For employers already subject to California’s 2021 supplemental paid sick leave law – those with 26 or more employees – the Sonoma County changes should have no impact (currently, at least). For employers with 25 or fewer employees that elected not to voluntarily provide leave per the conditions outlined for FFCRA under ARPA, however, and whose benefits package might not wholly or partially meet the generous policy exception, now would be an appropriate time to consider whether to revisit that decision.

 

Footnotes

​1 Effective April 1, 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provides a payroll tax credit to employers previously covered by the FFCRA, if the employer chooses to provide paid leave to its employees for reasons that previously would have entitled its eligible employee to FFCRA leave, along with some new reasons and conditions unique to ARPA.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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